I came to realize what true power was only recently. It was when I wanted to write, but felt powerless to write, which set me off on an exploration of why I couldn’t write.
As it turned out, the problem was not the task of writing itself, but that I felt no intrinsic power within myself, from which to believe that I had anything of value to offer. My sense of worth until then was derived from my external achievements — earning degrees from prestigious universities, winning prizes, achieving excellence, which turned out to be the ‘crutches’ to derive my sense of worth, not my intrinsic worth, which was supposed to be independent of anything external.
Writing, I realized, had been my unconscious attempt at trying to prove my worth rather than writing arising from the worth that I already felt within myself. No wonder I was so afraid to write because my worth was on the line.
I realized that it wasn’t possible to create something without already feeling that intrinsic worth inside of me, rather than trying to derive my sense of worth through my achievement. I wanted to access this true source of power and find out how I could get there.
It wasn’t until I came upon Eckhart Tolle that I truly understood what an intrinsic sense of worth was and what it felt like. He articulated the following in his lecture ‘Realizing Stillness’:
'You can work on self-esteem on the level of the person. But true self-esteem or a sense of self-worth, actually, is derived from or emanates from who you are beyond the person. A sense of worthiness, a sense of something precious that is the essence of yourself. That has nothing to do with achievements, successes, or failures of you as a person. It's something beyond that, that's not touched by the ups and downs of your everyday existence as a person…There is a goodness at the core of you that has always been there, and that is the light of consciousness itself. When you realize that, not intellectually but experientially, here and now, then you are no longer dependent on what's happening out there in your life for your sense of worthiness or self-esteem...Beyond who you are on the surface of your life, you are more fundamentally a "Deep I," a deeper sense of Being as a presence, and that's where true worthiness arises.’
As I learned to sense my ‘Deep I’ and being rooted in it, I no longer felt the need to look for external crutches to derive my sense of worth.
I realized that until one felt one's intrinsic power within oneself, the temptation to seek one’s sense of worth from things external, including a false sense of power over others, would persist, percolating under the surface, looking for the opportunities to get articulated.
It meant that the phenomenon of racism, normalization of hierarchy, center-margin relationship between one group over another would persist — no matter how hard an effort has been made to generate a strong ethos of egalitarianism and inclusion as a collective, as long as individuals remained disconnected from their intrinsic sense of worth.
Perhaps this explained the recent shift of ethos in America. Despite the assiduous strivings for the ideals of equality and inclusion as a collective, it hadn’t addressed the source of the problem, which was the disconnect from the intrinsic power within individuals. And as long individuals didn't feel power within themselves, the temptation to feel power over others that they didn't feel inside themselves would remain percolating under the surface, waiting for the opportunity to get expressed. This didn't mean that strong consciousness of civic values of equality and inclusion as a collective was any less important. But the work needed to be done on both levels — a strong consciousness of civic values as a collective and connection with intrinsic power within individuals.
A truly egalitarian and inclusive society could only be achieved and sustained, when each individual felt their intrinsic sense of worth. And ironically, a true sense of worth — which will move a society beyond hierarchy by letting go the need to seek a false sense of superiority over others to derive a sense of worth AND a true sense of self — which will move a society beyond tribalism by letting go the need to seek out ‘group identities' to derive a sense of self, turned out to be one and the same thing: the presence one felt within oneself.
In order for societies to move both beyond hierarchy AND beyond tribalism, individuals would need to be connected to their intrinsic sense of self and sense of worth within themselves. And feeling true power, independently of anything external, turned out to be an unconditional love for oneself — as there was no longer any condition attached to accepting oneself as one was as a worthy being.